Amend: Rewriting the Constitution

Wed May 4th 2022, 5:30 - 7:00pm


In the United States, there exist three ways to change fundamental law. Amend the Constitution. Interpret it differently. Or topple the government. The first method no longer works. The second was never intended, because it grants far too much power to the Supreme Court, the least democratic branch of government. And the third, the third is terribly dangerous. Is there another way forward? As commentators lament the decline of American democracy, Lepore reckons with the past, and possible future, of constitutional instability.

Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University. This lecture is a meditation on the consequences of the un-amendability and under-development of the U.S. Constitution. Her 2018 book, These Truths: A History of the United States, is an international bestseller and was named one of Time magazine's top ten non-fiction books of the decade. She followed that book with This America: The Case for the Nation (2019) and her latest book, IF THEN: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future, was published in 2020. Lepore is also a staff writer at The New Yorker.

Lepore is the recipient of many honors, awards, and honorary degrees, and has been a finalist for the National Book Award; the National Magazine Award; and, twice, for the Pulitzer Prize.

This talk is part of the Ethics Center's Wesson Lecture series, which examines problems of democracy. There will be a discussion seminar on Thursday, May 5, which is intended as a response to this lecture.